It might be the biggest breakup since the Beatles.
The only thing missing at Southern California right now is a Yoko sighting in South Central.
|Matt Leinart might have entered the NFL Draft had he known Norm Chow was leaving. (Getty Images)|
For the record, offensive coordinator Norm Chow on Wednesday became the fifth USC assistant to leave the program. That's an average of one per week since the Trojans won their second consecutive national championship Jan. 4.
The simple explanation is that successful staffs always get raided. Ask Bill Belichick, who just lost both coordinators. But ask any random Chicken Little and the foundation of a dynasty has begun to crumble.
Maybe Yoko just found a headset.
Was it hubris, ego or just natural turnover? There was speculated alienation between head coach Pete Carroll and Chow. If true, that is baffling, incredible and disappointing.
|USC has lost five assistants since Jan. 4|
|Offensive coordinator Norm Chow: Tennessee (NFL) offensive coordinator|
|Offensive line coach Tim Davis: Miami (NFL) assistant|
|Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron: Ole Miss head coach|
|Quarterbacks coach Carl Smith: Jacksonville (NFL) offensive coordinator|
|Grad assistant Dennis Slutak: Oregon special teams coach|
Both have publicly denied any problems.
"Amid speculation to the contrary, Norm and I had a great relationship during our years together," Carroll said. "I know that will continue in the future and will be the foundation of a lifetime friendship."
Chow essentially made a lateral move. The man has been in the business 32 years and had all of three jobs. No. 4 is in Nashville, miles away culturally and physically from his West Coast roots.
Quarterback Matt Leinart sure was surprised. He intimated this week he would have left early for the NFL Draft had he known the move was coming.
"It would have changed my thought process," Leinart told the Los Angeles Times.
Admit it, you can't name any of the previous four assistants who left. Make Chow the fifth and the exodus becomes, as Leinart said, "an avalanche." Eliminate any hint of conflict and the bottom line is still disconcerting.
Carroll has lost roughly half his staff.
Like the Beatles, USC had it all going on. Like the Beatles, the Trojans were the most talented band (of brothers) in the world.
Like the Beatles, maybe the creative tension in the room alters the perception. For USC, does it change from "all time" to "before its time"?
Everything this staff touched turned to (cardinal and) gold. No. 1 quarterback prospect Mark Sanchez signed up last week despite a long line forming behind Leinart. Defensive line coach (and assistant head coach) Ed Orgeron has been called the best recruiter in the country.
Chow was so revered that one of his signature plays basically appeared on the cover of the 2004 media guide; Leinart was shown scoring after Mike Williams' throwback pass in the Rose Bowl against Michigan.
Both Orgeron (now the head coach at Ole Miss) and Chow are gone. Sanchez will have to get used to both a new coordinator and new quarterbacks coach.
As Offensive Coordinator
|2004||13-0||W, Orange 55-19|
|2003||12-1||W, Rose 28-14|
|2002||11-2||W, Orange 38-17|
|2001||6-6||L, Las Vegas 10-6|
|Totals||42-9||2 National Titles (2004 & 2003)|
Sure, Chow doubled his salary by leaving, but he could have done that many times over the years by staying in college and becoming a head coach. However, he was more than happy in SoCal as a 58-year-old career assistant at the top of his game.
Chow tutored three Heisman winners, two in the past three years at USC. Carroll was the defensive mastermind. End of story.
We all thought Carroll and Chow were Keith and Mick, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Snoop Dogg and Warren G.
Not anymore, and maybe not in the past. Carroll consistently reminded the media that he had a significant hand in the play calling. When it came time, he apparently didn't go to his boss to get Chow a few more sheckles on top of his $500,000 salary.
Waiting in the wings is 29-year-old receivers coach Lane Kiffin, son of Carroll's long-time mentor Monte Kiffin. Out with the old, in with the new? Happens in every corporate structure in the country, right? Not when the stock is going through the roof. Then it's time for bonuses all around.
Chow has been the best offensive coordinator in football (NFL included) for years. He went to the Titans having turned down more career advancement opportunities than a Pizza Hut delivery guy.
There's nothing wrong with being comfortable. Middle-aged men would kill for his standard of living. Chow reportedly was the nation's highest-paid assistant. He lived near the ocean, 15 miles from the office. He had helped establish USC as the first dynasty of this century and one of the few in the past quarter century.
The groove was that good in Troy. Then something happened, even if it was a bunch of offers that couldn't be refused.
Bob Stoops won the 2000 national championship, then kept winning despite losing coordinators on both sides of the ball. Not so for Oregon, which hasn't been the same since offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford left for Cal. Florida State has shown a consistent offensive decline since Mark Richt left for Georgia.
None of that compares to the current situation at USC. Let us repeat: Pete Carroll just lost five assistants in five weeks.
When you've won 22 in a row it's easy to overlook a lot of things. A crumbling foundation can't be one of them.